August 7, 2014 | 7:30pm | Pre-concert chat with host Matthew White at 6:45 in the Royal Bank Cinema
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“Handel doesn’t miss a trick…. theatrical cunning and an all-embracing sense of joy.” (The Vancouver Sun, August 11, 2013) Leave the thorn. Gather the rose. After last summer’s groundbreaking performance of Israel in Egypt and the critical acclaim lavished on 2012’s Orlando, we’ve selected another extraordinary work from Handel’s oeuvre for our 2014 Festival centrepiece. Touring to the Ottawa Chamber Music Festival before coming to Vancouver – a first for EMV – this production will reach greater heights of artistic expression than ever before. Beauty and Pleasure abound in Handel’s first oratorio, the source of his ongoing genius.
Mahony and Sons is proud to sponsor Early Music Vancouver. Join us before or after your concert and make your experience a great one. For reservations visit mahonyandsons.com. We validate parking at our UBC location.
Have you ever dreamed about visiting the past on some momentous occasion? Hearing Lincoln at Gettysburg, seeing Nijinsky dance Spectre de la Rose, watching Hank Aaron break the Babe’s home run record? Here’s a somewhat offbeat nominee for lovers of great music: Imagine being among the eminent Romans invited to the intimate auditorium of the Clementine Order to hear the premiere of an oratorio by the latest virtuoso to take the music-mad aristocracy of the city by storm: a cherubic 22-year-old from Germany by the name of Georg Friedrich Händel.
When his Triumph of Time and Good Counsel had its first performance, Händel was only four years out of his birthplace, the provincial Prussian city of Halle. But acclaim for his dizzying facility as an organist had preceded him, and most of the audience at the Collegio Clementino would have been there more to hear him improvise on that instrument than to listen to a two-hour-long musico-dramatic debate written by a pillar of the Catholic Church establishment, Cardinal Benedetto Pamphili.
They got what they came for: Pamphili made room in his pious music-drama for his protege to perform a three-movement organ concerto, in the guise of a “lovely youth” with “wingèd hands” who pops up unexpectedly among the personnel of the Palace of Pleasure described in the libretto.
Did they also appreciate what else they heard that night: the earliest surviving music-drama of one of the greatest composers in that form who ever lived, the first of fifty-odd composed over the next 50 years or so?
There’s reason to believe they did. Despite the steady hostility of an older rival for Pamphili’s patronage, The Triumph of Time was revived annually for at least two years after its premiere: a very rare testimony to the power of the work in a time when even the greatest composers were accustomed to having their music treated like disposable ephemera.
Pamphili spared no effort or expense to ensure the piece got an attentive hearing. He engaged the finest singers in the city, and provided his private orchestra to accompany it, led by the great violin virtuoso Archangelo Corelli, himself among the most eminent living Italian composers. In more than equal exchange for the Cardinal’s support, Händel turned Pamphili’s rather frigid and conventional verse drama into dazzling entertainment, without betraying its roots as a Christian morality play.
The “Story” is simple. Beauty (she could just as easily have been called “the Soul”) has been feeling a little troubled lately. Is there perhaps more to life than an endless pursuit of fun? Her handmaid Pleasure says no, but the figure of Time enters with a different message: Repent your frivolous ways before it’s too late, he thunders. He’s backed up by his more discreet ally Good Counsel, who prefers to work by persuasion rather than threats.
And so, in Pamphili’s libretto, it goes: He says, she says, he says, she says, with the outcome never in doubt: This is 1707, after all, and we’re in the hands of an author who is also a Roman Catholic cardinal.
What turns all the moralizing back-and-forth into real drama is Handel’s endless string of musical surprises: Within a structure of conventional da capo arias, he slips in jigs, lullabies, and calls to battle, seductions, laments, glees, and prayers, each with a distinctive instrumental accompaniment and each daring its performer to cut loose and show us just how dazzling he or she can improvise on the written notes of the songs.
By the time Pleasure is decisively defeated (and departs in a whirlwind of angry coloratura), we have been treated to such a feast of brilliant singing and playing that Beauty’s final peaceful prayer makes a deliciously restful conclusion.
It makes no sense to talk about the greatest this or that in the career of a composer as stupefyingly prolific and consistent as Handel. But The Triumph of Time is still something special: the first emergence into the limelight of an artist clearly marked for greatness, and manifesting the rare kind of energy that makes you want to watch him every step of the way.
Despite that fact, The Triumph of Time was virtually unknown to music-lovers for over two centuries. Even after the great rediscovery of Händel’s dramatic output began in the mid-20th century, it remained obscure, a footnote even in scholarly studies of the composer’s vast output. (The most eminent Händel expert of the day, Winton Dean, barely mentions its name in his three huge and exhaustive volumes on the operas and oratorios.)
Fortunately, the early-music movement led to a re-examination of even the most arcane corners of the Händel repertory, and The Triumph of Time was soon recognized, along with its sister work from Roman days The Resurrection, as a seminal work, presaging much of what the composer achieved, perhaps with more temperance and polish, in the next five decades.
When fantasizing about the creation of this early masterwork, it’s also interesting to consider what might have happened if Carlo Cesarini, Händel’s bitter rival for Cardinal Pamfili’s patronage hadn’t ultimately prevailed. Perhaps there never would have been an “English Handel”, and the young genius, coddled and cossetted, might have elected to stay in Rome.
We’ll never know; but when Cesarini won the battle, there was someone ready to take advantage of the situation: Vincenzo Grimani, a power behind the papal throne, became Handel’s patron, and took him along when he was appointed to the role of papal regent in Naples. But Grimani died in 1710, and Handel was once again on the lookout for a permanent post. As it happened, Georg Ludwig, Duke of Hannover was looking for a house composer at the time, and when Georg was invited to change his name to George and become King of England, guess who went along for the ride? – Roger Downey
Alexander Weimann, music director
Alexander Weimann is one of the most sought-after ensemble directors, soloists, and chamber music partners of his generation. After traveling the world with ensembles like Tragicomedia, Cantus Cölln, the Freiburger Barockorchester, the Gesualdo Consort and Tafelmusik, he now focuses on his activities as Artistic Director of the Pacific Baroque Orchestra in Vancouver, and as music director of Les Voix Baroques, Le Nouvel Opéra and Tempo Rubato.
Recently, he has conducted the Montreal-based baroque orchestra Ensemble Arion, Les Violons du Roy, and the Portland Baroque Orchestra; both the Orchestre Symphonique de Québec and the Montreal Symphony Orchestra have regularly featured him as a featured soloist. In the last years, he has repeatedly conducted the Victoria Symphony and Symphony Nova Scotia, most recently with Handel’s Messiah.
Alexander Weimann can be heard on some 100 CDs. He made his North American recording debut with the ensemble Tragicomedia on the CD Capritio (Harmonia Mundi USA), and won worldwide acclaim from both the public and critics for his 2001 release of Handel’s Gloria (ATMA Classique). Volume 1 of his recordings of the complete keyboard works by Alessandro Scarlatti appeared in May 2005. Critics around the world unanimously praised it, and in the following year it was nominated for an Opus Prize as the best Canadian early music recording. Recently, he has also released an Opus Award-winning CD of Handel oratorio arias with superstar soprano Karina Gauvin and his new Montreal-based ensemble Tempo Rubato, a recording of Bach’s St. John’s Passion, various albums with Les Voix Baroques of Buxtehude, Carissimi and Purcell, all with rave reviews. His latest album with Karina Gauvin and Arion Baroque Orchestra (Prima Donna) won a Juno Award in 2013, and a complete recording of Handel’s Orlando was released in the fall of 2013, with an exciting group of international star soloists and the Pacific Baroque Orchestra performing.
Alexander Weimann was born in 1965 in Munich, where he studied the organ, church music, musicology (with a summa cum laude thesis on Bach’s secco recitatives), theatre, medieval Latin, and jazz piano, supported by a variety of federal scholarships for the highly talented. In addition to his studies, he has attended numerous master classes in harpsichord and historical performance. To ground himself further in the roots of western music, he became intensely involved over the course of several years with Gregorian chant. Alexander Weimann has moved to the Vancouver area with his wife, 3 children and pets, and tries to spend as much time as possible in his garden and kitchen.
Amanda Forsythe, soprano Bellezza
Amanda Forsythe has sung principal roles in the opera houses of Geneva and Munich, the Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro, the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris, and the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.
Recent performances include L’Amour in Gluck’s Orphée (Covent Garden), Agrippina (Boston Baroque), Mozart’s Requiem and Mass in C minor with the Monteverdi Choir and Orchestra under Sir John Eliot Gardiner, and her début with the Boston Symphony in Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream under Andris Nelsons.
Highlights of the 2016–2017 season include Marzelline in Fidelio (Pappano/Santa Cecilia), débuts with The Chicago Symphony and Tafelmusik, a return to Seattle Opera (Pamina in Die Zauberflöte), and a European tour of “Orpheus, the Myth” with countertenor Philippe Jaroussky.
Ms. Forsythe sings Euridice on Charpentier’s La Descente d’Orphée aux Enfers with BEMF, which won the Grammy Award for Best Opera Recording. Her début solo album of Handel arias was released in Fall 2015 on the Avie label to great acclaim.
Krisztina Szabó, soprano Piacere
In the 2016-17 season, Krisztina Szabó will sing the title role in Rossini’s Cenerentola with Edmonton Opera, and will appear in concert with Tafelmusik (Toronto), Music of the Baroque (Chicago), Grand Philharmonic Choir (Kitchener-Waterloo) and Pax Christi Chorale (Toronto). She will also be a featured performer in Canadian Stage’s All But Gone, a production featuring short plays by Samuel Beckett.
In the 2015-16 season Krisztina Szabó sang the role of Judith in Bluebeard’s Castle (Colorado Music Festival), Thisbe in Pyramus and Thisbe (Canadian Opera Company). She appeared as soloist in Handel’s Messiah (Symphony Nova Scotia, Calgary Philharmonic), in concert with Bravissimo! at Roy Thomson Hall, with Soundstreams, with the Toronto Children’s Chorus, and with Talisker Players.
In 2015, she was nominated for 2 Dora Awards for her performances as The Woman in Erwartung with the COC and in Booster Shots with Tapestry Opera. Career highlights include The Woman in Death and Desire (Against the Grain Theatre), Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni, and Sesto in La clemenza di Tito (Vancouver Opera), Le Pèlerin in L’Amour de loin and Idamante in Idomeneo (COC), Komponist in Ariadne auf Naxos (Stadttheater Klagenfurt), Rosalind in The Mines of Sulphur (Wexford Festival Opera), Cherubino (Le nozze di Figaro) and Meg (Little Women)(Calgary Opera), Dorabella (Mostly Mozart Festival, NY), St. Matthew Passion (Brooklyn Academy of Music), Nerone in Agrippina (L’Opéra de Montréal), and Ruggiero in Alcina and Haydn’s Arianna a Naxos (Les Violons du Roy).
Reginald L. Mobley, alto Disinganno
“It must be said from the beginning that one of the joys of seeing Mobley is hearing his beautiful alto coming out of a big, tall man who looks more like a linebacker for the Miami Dolphins than the P.G. Wodehouse party guest his name might suggest.”
Countertenor Reginald L. Mobley fully intended to speak his art through watercolors and oil pastels until circumstance demanded that his own voice should speak for itself. Since reducing his visual color palette to the black and white of a score, he’s endeavored to open up a wider spectrum onstage.
A longtime member of twice GRAMMY® nominated ensemble Seraphic Fire, Reggie has recently appeared with Agave Baroque, Bach Collegium San Diego, Boston Early Music Festival, Monteverdi Choir & English Baroque Soloists, Pacific MusicWorks, TENET, and The Handel + Haydn Society in the ‘15/’16 season. With the latter, he had the honor of becoming the first Black person to lead H+H during its Bicentennial anniversary.
Never bound by conventional countertenor repertoire, Reggie has a fair bit of non-classical work in tow. His first professional work was in Musical Theatre, and while working in Japan (as a Singer/Actor for Tokyo Disney), he performed cabaret shows of gospel, jazz, and torch songs in jazz clubs around Tokyo. And though not one to regret, Reggie has considered rediscovering his artistic roots. So if seen post concert, forego an autograph and ask for one of his self-acclaimed stick figure drawings. It’s a start.
Colin Balzer, tenor Tempo
Tenor Colin Balzer has sung acclaimed recitals in London, New York, and Philadelphia, and concerts with the Portland, New Jersey, Québec, Atlanta, Montreal, and Indianapolis Symphonies, Early Music Vancouver, Tafelmusik, Les Violons du Roy, the National and Calgary Philharmonics, National Arts Centre Orchestra, Musica Sacra, and the Oratorio Society of New York.
His performances with the Boston Early Music Festival include Monteverdi’s Ulisse, Handel’s Almira, Steffani’s Niobe, Lully’s Psyché, and Mattheson’s Boris Goudenow. He has been featured in Mozart’s Don Giovanni at the Bolshoi and in Aix-en-Provence, and Mozart’s La finta giardiniera in Aix and Luxembourg.
He has also appeared with Collegium Vocale Gent (Philippe Herreweghe), Fundacao OSESP Orchestra (Louis Langrée), Les Musiciens du Louvre (Marc Minkowski), Rotterdam Philharmonic (Yannick Nézet-Séguin), and Akademie für alte Musik (Marcus Creed).
His recordings include Wolf’s Italienisches Liederbuch, and Eisler and Henze song anthologies. Mr. Balzer earned the Gold Medal at the Robert Schumann Competition in Zwickau with the highest score in twenty-five years.
Pacific Baroque Orchestra
The Pacific Baroque Orchestra (PBO) is recognized as one of Canada’s most exciting and innovative ensembles performing “early music for modern ears.” PBO brings the music of the past up to date by performing with cutting edge style and enthusiasm. Formed in 1990, the orchestra quickly established itself as a force in Vancouver’s burgeoning music scene with the ongoing support of Early Music Vancouver.
In 2009 PBO welcomed Alexander Weimann, one of the most sought-after ensemble directors, soloists, and chamber music partners of his generation, as Artistic Director. Weimann’s imaginative programming and expert leadership have drawn in many new concertgoers, and his creativity and engaging musicianship have carved out a unique and vital place in the cultural landscape of Vancouver.
PBO regularly joins forces with internationally celebrated Canadian guest artists, providing performance opportunities for Canadian musicians while exposing West Coast audiences to a spectacular variety of talent. The Orchestra has also toured B.C., the northern United States and across Canada as far as the East Coast. The musicians of the Pacific Baroque Orchestra have been at the core of many large-scale productions by Early Music Vancouver in recent years, including many summer festival performances led by Alexander Weimann.